Roof collapse

Part of the roof of the Ester Volunteer Fire Department collapsed early Sunday morning, due to the weight of record-breaking snowfall. 

The roof of the Ester Volunteer Fire Department collapsed early Sunday morning under snow weight, pinning three fire trucks but hurting no one. While the building is inactive, neighboring fire departments are responding to emergency calls in the area.

At approximately 1:45 a.m. Sunday, four people in Ester’s Station 51 heard a loud crackling noise, Fire Chief Jeff Conner said.

“One person described it as the world’s loudest washing machine," he said. "Another one thought that someone was stomping or banging on the roof.”

The collapse happened in the west engine bay while the few staff members present were in the east part of the building that was left intact, Conner said. Everyone inside the station was able to safely exit the building without injury.

“We feel extremely fortunate that this occurred at night when none of our members were in the bay,” fire department staff wrote on Facebook Monday.

Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Bryce Ward echoed the notion.

“I am thankful that no one was injured during this unfortunate event,” he said. “We can always rebuild a building, however the lives of our people are the most important thing.”

The department employs 37 members, 33 of whom are volunteers. Three of the four trucks the department owns were pinned by the collapsed roof and won’t be repaired until freed from under the debris, Conner said.

After the collapse, staff cleared and secured the building and partially restored power to the station, according to the department. The Fairbanks Fire Department team brought an aerial truck to see the damage from the top, Conner said.

The borough's public works department and insurance personnel will give the building a full structural assessment in the days to come to determine the extent of the damages and to establish the timeline for repairs. Currently, the workers are restoring power, what and water in the building.

“We have closed the building to anyone entering, and we ask that our community respect the severity of this incident and not approach Station 51,” department staff wrote on Facebook.

The staff plans to have the department response-ready by Thursday or sooner.

While the building is closed, Chena Goldstream Fire Department and the University Fire Department respond to fire services and emergency calls for the Ester area.

Contact staff writer Alena Naiden at 459-7587. Follow her at twitter.com/FDNMlocal.